Thursday, March 7, 2013

Weekend artifact show launches commemoration of burning of coastal town

A coastal community in southeast Georgia, rebuilt from the ashes, this year is marking the 150th anniversary of its burning at the hands of Union troops.

Leaders of the effort have launched a “Burning of Darien” website and are getting the word out through Facebook about events, culminating June 15 in a commemoration at the town’s downtown district and a living history encampment on nearby Butler Island.

First up is a Civil War artifact show planned from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at Fort King George, the British crown’s southern outpost in the 1720s and 1730s.

Residents are encouraged to bring in items and explain their backstory.

"These artifacts may include those handed down from ancestors, or the neat stuff you happened upon in your yard when planting that garden, or maybe even interesting items you bought off others since you are a serious collector," the Facebook page says.

Experts will explain the items' significance.

“We are trying to get people to bring in effects and loan them to the museum for the 150th events,” said Steven Smith, site manager at the fort and a leader of the Darien sesquicentennial committee.

Smith said artifacts and other items will be displayed in a new Civil War museum at the town’s Trailhead Center.

About 500 residents had largely fled inland in the weeks prior to Union troops moving from St. Simons Island on the town, known then for its rice and timber exports. It held little strategic importance, historians say.

Col. Robert Gould Shaw (left), who objected to the deserted and undefended town’s burning, commanded the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was ordered to seize any supplies and commit the destruction by Col. James Montgomery, commander of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers, which also participated.

Only a few structures survived the June 11, 1863, incident, depicted in the 1989 film “Glory.”

“This is something that didn’t happen in the Civil War,” coastal historian Buddy Sullivan told the Picket.

Events leading up to the June 15 commemoration include lectures, a screening of “Glory” and the unveiling of a new bridge mural.

COMING SOON: The Picket takes a closer look at the Darien incident and efforts to promote tourism in the region.

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